Strengthening cross-border cancer research and care

A cross-border cancer research unit has been established in order to speed up the development of new treatments and improve daily clinical care for citizens living on either side of the Danish – German border.

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The KFFB project team (from l to r): Niels Henrik Holländer, Hanne Rode, Dr Tim Iveson and Prof Jürgen Dunst The KFFB project team (from l to r): Niels Henrik Holländer, Hanne Rode, Dr Tim Iveson and Prof Jürgen Dunst

" Both regions face difficult demographic challenges with increasing numbers of cancer patients, a need to attract highly qualified personnel and weak regional business opportunities. This project collaboration supported regions on both sides of the Fehmarn Belt, in order to maintain and improve important cancer treatment options for citizens in their own regions and to ensure that patients get access to expert knowledge from two hospital systems. "

Niels Henrik Holländer, Project leader, Naestved Hospital, Denmark

The Cancer Research Fehmarn Belt (KFFB) project, part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund, brings together expertise from Naestved, Denmark and University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Lübeck, Germany.

While both hospitals are situated near the border and are the largest oncology centres in their respective regions, there has in the past been virtually no cross-border cooperation. One reason for this is that the organisation of health care and education differs between the two regions.

Better care

A key element of the project’s success has been exchanging experience and knowledge of treating cancer patients. Learning about different work procedures has inspired new thinking and new ideas of how patients can best be treated.

As part of the collaboration, partners also jointly test new treatment methods of common cancer types, with the aim of transferring the results to clinical treatment routines as efficiently as possible.

This means that citizens on both sides will now have access to the best cancer treatment available, while the region has an opportunity to become recognised as an international centre of research excellence.

As part of the project, the quality of care of the most common cancers has been documented by cancer registries on both sides of the border. Collaboration of these registries enables a comparison of cancer care to be made, and increases transparency for patients.

Regional competitiveness

Indeed, the project has also helped to increase the regions' competitiveness in the international healthcare market. Results from joint studies will be used as reference for future assignments, while project partners in the cross border region are now in a strong position to carry out further cross-border cooperation programmes.

This increases the attractiveness of the region as a destination for both investment and highly qualified personnel.

Long term cooperation

This project is the first step in the creation of a dynamic cross-border healthcare market, where innovations can be integrated quickly and easily and patients receive the best care possible. Successful collaboration has led to a formal cooperation agreement between Zealand Region, the University of Lübeck and the University of Copenhagen, and through this connection Professor Jürgen Dunst from Lübeck has been appointed as Honorary Professor in Radiation Therapy at the Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Copenhagen with base at Naestved Hospital.

Furthermore, the beginning of an internship programme between Luebeck and Naestved has emerged, with increasing numbers of students expressing an interest in this opportunity. German - Danish cooperation has also led to the formulation of recommendations on the side effects of radiotherapy, an innovation that was presented at the KFFB conference in Naestved in 2013.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “KFFB – Cancer Research Fehmarnbelt” is EUR 1 424 244, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 976 517 through the Fehmarnbelt Region Operational Programme for the 2007- 2013 programming period.

Draft date